Police body cameras are now the law; Will they make a difference?

information from the City of Seattle

Mayor Ed Murray and Council President Bruce Harrell issued the following statement on the deployment of body-worn video equipment on West Precinct bike officers this past weekend. The deployment marks a milestone in the City’s ongoing effort to equip police officers with body cameras and to bring the Seattle Police Department (SPD) closer to compliance with the 2012 Consent Decree.

“We know that body cameras lead to increased civility on both sides of the camera,” said Mayor Murray. “With the deployment of body cameras on West Precinct bike officers this past weekend, these cameras are now in action and SPD is moving toward increased transparency and accountability that has been years in the making. I appreciate Council President Harrell’s work in securing Council support for this program and I look forward to working with the community to refine this program and policy as we continue to increase the use of body cameras city-wide.”

“I am excited to say we now have body cameras on Seattle police officers,” said Council President Harrell. “Bottom line — body cameras will improve transparency with our community and promote accountability, help us better train our police officers and provide better evidence as to what actually happens in the field.

While limited to only the bike squad in the West Precinct, we will slowly deploy to more squads in the coming months. We have an ongoing stakeholders group that provides a weekly status report, so we will continue working with the community, police accountability advocates and privacy advocates to ensure we have a system and process in place that works for the safety of all residents.”

Mayor Murray has long-advocated for body-worn cameras as part of improving accountability and community relations with SPD. A recent study commissioned by the Federal Monitor overseeing the Consent Decree between the City and the Department of Justice found that 92 percent of Seattleites want to see body cameras on officers. Additionally, a March, 2016 survey conducted by the Community Police Commission and SPD, as a part of its 2016 body-worn camera pilot program, found that 86 percent of community members would want officers to be wearing body cameras when they responded to a call for service.

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